Type 2 Diabetes: Manage Diabetes with Herbs and Spices Naturally

Manage Diabetes Naturally

Presence of bioactive compounds (polyphenol, flavonoid, and anti-oxidants) in different herbs and spices help prevent chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, renal disease and many more.

Since ancient time, consumption of herbs and spices were well known for its medicinal properties with over 80 spices grown in different parts of the world especially in Asia.

India is ‘home to spices’ that are used prominently in traditional medicine practice.

According to WHO around 80% of the world’s population uses herbal medicine in primary health care. The prevalence of herbs as medicine is evident in Europe, Germany, and India.

Type 2 diabetes, a metabolic disorder in which enough insulin is not produced/released to regulate blood sugar levels. This high level of sugar in blood further promotes inflammation.

Research work has shown that the anti-inflammatory effects of natural herbs and spices block the formation of inflammatory compounds.

Use of antibiotics comes with many side effects, and this has led to a comeback of naturally grown herbs and spices to counter side effects of antibiotics.

Here’s a list of Herbs and Spices helps manage Diabetes Naturally:

Bay leaves, Cinnamon, Fenugreek seeds, Fenugreek leaves, Green tea, Coriander, Garlic, Aloe Vera, Basil leaves, Guduchi, Ginger, and Oregano respectively.

  1. Bay Leaves: It belongs to Lauraceae family which is native to India, Nepal, Bhutan, and China.

A study showed that consumption of bay leaves (tej patta) helps lower serum cholesterol in individuals with Type 2 diabetes.

Bay leaves increase serum HDL cholesterol, decrease serum triglycerides, reduces serum glucose in people with type 2 diabetes.

Use of 1-3 g bay leaves for 30 days lowered the risk of diabetes and associated cardiovascular disease in a human study.

How to include it: Add to your food while cooking as a seasoning for flavor.

2. Cinnamon: Cinnamon is a spice and enhances insulin release from pancreas. There’s no long recipe for it though- you just have to add ¼ tsp of it to your tea, smoothie, coffee, and juices.

 According to Hargrove, PhD herbs and spices are powerful sources of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory factor. Also adding a teaspoon of cinnamon in your food is enough to reap its health benefits.The newly published study by Hargrove and colleagues appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Medicinal Food.

How to include it: Try adding cinnamon powder to soups, shakes, coffee, juices and pasta dishes.

3. Fenugreek: It belongs to Fabaceae family

Fenugreek seeds (known as methi in Hindi) have in them antibiotic properties that are responsible for lowering blood sugar and lipid levels.

The therapeutic potential of fenugreek is primarily due to the presence of high fiber content, saponins, 4-hydroxyisoleucine, and trigonelline, and an alkaloid.

The anti-hyperglycemic effect of fenugreek has been hypothesized to be due to the amino acid 4-hydroxyisoleucine which acts by the enhancement of insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake in peripheral tissues.

Health benefits of fenugreek seeds have been showed in both human and animal trials. In a study fenugreek have been reported to reduce blood glucose levels. Also a considerable increment of the area of insulin-immunoreactive β-cells has been reported.

How to include it: They also add flavor to the foods and have pungent aroma.

You can soak 1tbs of fenugreek seeds overnight in one glass of water and drink that water next morning daily. You can also chew the seeds or add it to the food. Vegetable prepared from fenugreek leaves also add flavor and provide health benefits.

4. Green tea: Green tea belongs to Theaceae family native to East Asia.

While we are on this topic of natural herbal remedies, it’s worth mentioning another important natural herb that can help you on your way to manage diabetes and boosts metabolism.

Green tea is a part of traditional remedies in China for wound healing, improves heart function, boosts metabolism and improve type diabetes.

Green tea is considered one of the world’s healthiest beverages and is packed with highest amount of antioxidants than any other tea.

Presence of polyphenols in green tea provides anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic effects.

The most studied polyphenol in green tea is Epigallocatechin- 3- Gallate (EGCG). Green tea increases secretion of insulin from the pancreas.

Studies concerning the effect of green tea on diabetes have been inconsistent. Some studies have shown to lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes for green tea drinkers than for those who consumed no tea.

While other studies have reported no association between green tea consumption and diabetes at all.

5. Coriander: It belongs to Apiaceae family

Coriander is also known as dhaniya (in India), Chinese parsley and cilantro. Coriander (both the leaves and seed) is rich in antioxidants, which can delay or prevent the spoilage of food seasoned with this spice.

A study found that along with coriander seeds the leaves were found to have a stronger effect. It also lowers blood sugar levels. You can spice up your meal with healthy coriander powder while sautéing.

How to include it: You can put coriander powder while preparing vegetables when frying or sautéing.

6. Garlic: It belongs to Alliacea family

Garlic is a miraculous plant that helps lower fasting blood sugar levels due to bioactive compounds such as allicin, ajoene, an organosulphur compound. Consumption of garlic helps alleviate CVD complications related to diabetes.

If taken with curcumin (an active compound in turmeric) and ginger have anti-hyperglycemic effects in a study done in rats.

Consumption of garlic as a spice is used in culinary world to add flavor to the food. Whereas, consumption of raw garlic improves oxidative stress and insulin sensitivity in a study done on fructose-fed rats.

It also helps to enhance thiamine (vitamin B1) absorption in the body and prevents beriberi.

Tip: Before consumption of garlic chop or crush it as allicin works best when in contact with oxygen.

Word of advice: Those on insulin should consult a physician before consumption of garlic. Garlic being a potent herb can interfere with your medication so try eating one clove at one time.

7. Aloe Vera: It belongs to Liliaceae family

The plant can be separated into two basic products: gel and latex. Bioactive compound present in Aloe Vera has an antidiabetic potential. They stimulate Langerhans cells to release more insulin from the pancreas and improve blood circulation.

Two clinical studies concluded, “There is some preliminary evidence to suggest that oral administration of Aloe Vera might be effective in reducing blood glucose in diabetic patients and in lowering blood lipid levels in hyperlipidemia”.

8. Holi Basil: It belongs to Lamiaceae family native to India.

There all kinds of natural remedies you can use to prevent diabetes and basil leaves (tulsi) is one of the best. They have a bunch of phytonutrients (such as antioxidants, flavanol) chlorophyll, vitamins, and minerals in it.

Moreover, it has got Eugenol, a bioactive compound that stimulates insulin secretion and has a glucose lowering effect. I use it in my diet because it also has anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties and reduces stress.

How to include it: You can chew 4-5 fresh basil leaves early morning daily. It can be infused in your morning herbal tea that helps lower plasma glucose levels. It also forms the important ingredient of pesto recipes.

9. Guduchi: It belongs to Menispermaceae family indigenous to India, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Guduchi or T. cordifolia forms a prominent part of Indian Ayurveda (an ancient medicine practice) for managing diabetes. Guduchi root extract (400mg/kg) lowered blood glucose levels in rats (alloxan diabetic) when taken orally in aqueous form.

Another study in rodents showed that daily consumption of Guduchi has antihypertensive effect that reduced high levels of blood glucose and increased blood glucose levels and glucose tolerance.

10. Ginger: It belongs to the Zingiberaceae family

Ginger is an important spice in Indian kitchen since ancient times. The active compound in ginger is gingerols and shogaol.

International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition in 2011 included a study to compare the abilities of various extraction methods of ginger to inhibit enzymes relevant to type 2 diabetes and inflammation. In particular, ginger contain a bioactive compound that aids in diabetes management.

According to a 2009 study published in European Journal of Pharmacology serotonin receptor systems are involved in modulating insulin releases and ginger extracts can be used to improve diabetic symptoms.

Tip: You can add ginger in your daily diet by adding grated ginger over your recipes and can also drink ginger infused water and ginger tea.

 11. Oregano: It belongs to mint family (Lamiaceae)

A spicy perennial herb native to Italy, Mexico, Greek and Argentinian cuisines.

Oregano contains polyphenol antioxidants that are one of the best sources of antioxidants that scavenge free radicals.

It is also rich in essential oils such as Carvacrol, Thymol, Pinene, and Thymol. It also helps lowering blood sugar levels. Oregano is used as a seasoning agent on dishes.

Word of Advice: There is no single food that is a magic food for a healthy body. To achieve your health goals along with the top herbs and spices, eat a well-balanced diet, work out regularly, make healthy lifestyle changes, and do gratitude exercise.

Have you ever tried any herbs and spices in your diet? Do share your reviews on its health benefits.

Decoding Science of Vitamins and Minerals in the Body

In General Practice:

When you fall sick, you gorge on antibiotic tablets, few take vitamin supplement capsules, and some take days off at work. One can probably anticipate that you may have a weak immune system or there is a likelihood of drug-nutrient interaction, an underlying cause of derailment of your health. Most likely an onset phase of deficiency of nutrients as you age.

Vitamins and Minerals- A General Scenario:

In general, many doctors and health providers do not recommend routine check-up of vitamin level. In most of the cases, vitamin and mineral levels are tested in diseases such as immune system disorders, osteoporosis, and disorders of the immune system, where there is a possible manifestation of vitamin deficiencies of – calcium, iron, cholecalciferol and vitamin D.

A manifestation of vitamin deficiency comes with a myriad of invisible health problems but is omnipresent.

The Contributing factors

But, to no doubt, there are numerous factors causing vitamin and mineral deficiency in the body, few important factors are namely,

  • Reduced physical activity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Lack of vitamin fortification in food

Through food, there are only a few natural sources of the sunshine vitamin (vitamin D), vitamin B12 and iron (for a plant-based or vegetarian diet).

Have you ever wondered, why so much talk about vitamin and supplements nowadays? The answer to this can be unfolded when we understand the clock of vitamins and mineral supplements in reference to-

  • Vitamin and mineral supplement interactions inside the body in the proximity of inside parameters of your body. Although needed in small amount are essential in optimizing health and well being because leading a healthy life is the need of the hour, to balance your work and life in the fast-paced world.

Discussions so far have been focused on requirements of vitamins and minerals for carrying out many vital functions of the body also, in the utilization of major nutrients namely, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

This propagates us to the next question of how much vitamin and mineral are needed by an individual and what combinations of the tablet will affect you when taken with food or taken before breakfast on an empty stomach.

With vitamin and minerals so important to us, we struggle to get their adequate amount through our diet alone, which we can easily miss from our routine diet. If you desire to obtain benefits of your daily vitamin supplements then taking them in at the right time and right amount can make a positive impact in your life.

List of Vitamin Combinations to avoid or taken together to obtain its full benefits:

  1. Calcium and Iron:

Avoid intake of calcium and iron supplements together as calcium works as an inhibitor to iron absorption. Also, caffeine and tannins found in tea and coffee affect their absorption.

The best time to take iron is in the morning on an empty stomach. Iron is an important mineral and major component of hemoglobin. Its lower level causes fatigue and a weak immune system.

Best time to take calcium: It is suggested to have a calcium supplement in the morning with breakfast or after lunch.

Tip: Try to have both the minerals at different times of the day for example if you take calcium in the morning take iron in the evening.

  1. Calcium and Magnesium:

Calcium is the most abundant mineral found 99% in bones and teeth and the remaining 1% in other physiologic function. It helps in healthy nerve transmission and muscle function. Magnesium can be found in bones about 60% and remaining in blood, muscles and tissue and fluids. It helps to sleep better at night as it relaxes muscles and nervous system and inhibits inflammation also.

If calcium and magnesium are taken at the same time, they interfere in the absorption. It is advised to have a gap of a couple of hours between these two mineral supplements. Ca: Mg ratio of 1:1 to be maintained for an adult (both men and women.)

Normal blood levels of Calcium: 8.5 to 10.5 mg/dl.

The best time to take magnesium is in the evening before going to bed.

  1. Copper and Zinc

Zinc acts as a co-factor for various enzymes to regulate the immune system. As per various studies, high doses of zinc may lead to copper deficiency by interfering in its absorption. Hence, it is advised to have around two hours gap when taking both the minerals together.

Tip: Avoid taking zinc an empty stomach and with iron, calcium or iron. Instead, take iron with food in the afternoon to avoid the feeling of nausea.

  1. Fat soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D, E, and K)

Fat-soluble vitamins are better absorbed when taken with food that contains dietary fats. To enhance absorption of vitamin K try to take other fat-soluble vitamins at other times of the day.  An orally safe level of zinc is 40 mg daily.

Vitamin Combinations to include in your Diet to obtain its full benefits:

  1. Calcium and vitamin D: Best Combo

Calcium and vitamin D works best together to protect bones. Vitamin D aids in better absorption of calcium from the small intestine in the body. Vitamin D forms naturally by the body when exposed to sunlight.

Best time to take Vitamin D:

Vitamin D a fat-soluble vitamin is best taken with dietary fats. Intake of 1000mg-1200mg of calcium carbonate daily and 400-800 IU of vitamin D weekly is recommended by doctors for an adult.

  1. Folic acid and Cyanocobalamin- Perfect duo

As vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) found in foods from animal origin (eggs, meat, liver) and its levels get lowered in adults. Both folic acid (vitamin B9) and cyanocobalamin together play an important role in the formation of red blood cells, and their deficiency leads to megaloblastic anemia. A safe level of folic acid supplementation should be 1000 mcg per day to prevent symptoms of vitamin B12.

Although vitamin B12 can be synthesized in the gut by microbes, their bioavailability is difficult. For an adult, vitamin B12 intake is between 0.5 and 1.0 mcg per day.

It is generally advised to fulfill vitamin and mineral requirements naturally through foods rich in particular vitamin or mineral. Although factors such as age, gender, digestive disorder (such as lactose intolerance, gluten insensitivity) and eating patterns (vegan or vegetarian diet) may affect absorption of certain vitamins and minerals such as calcium, vitamin D, folic acid, iron, and vitamin B12 .

Tip: Avoid taking any vitamin and mineral or supplement randomly. The best thing to do is go for complete blood test and whole body checkup. Then take the vitamin supplements which is right for you and also know the correct dosage to avoid any complications from taking too much unnecessary supplements.

For example, iron enhances energy only when you are iron deficient. To know more about its levels, check with a blood test and consult a physician otherwise it is advised to avoid iron overload as it can be harmful leading to disease conditions. Moreover, taking excess of B-complex vitamins ( B1, B2, B6 and B12) do not provide a boost of energy rather it helps convert food into energy to be utilised by cells in the body.

For boosting your energy:

  1. Try to nourish your body with natural foods- eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, complex carbs and lean protein.
  2. Plan your meals so that you get nourishment throughout the day’s work.
  3. Morning sunlight (for 15-20 minutes before 1 pm)
  4. Dietary supplements (if could not meet the daily requirement of calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12). Do not go for any other energy-boosting supplements.

Good news: Eating a balanced diet, you can achieve sufficient recommendation of micronutrients or from a combination of food and supplements under doctor and dietician advice.

 

Wheatgrass- A Potential Green Superfood

Wheatgrass A Potential Green Superfood

In the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle our aim is to meet the contemporary standard of health for all. A prominent catchphrase by Hippocrates “Nature itself is the best Physician”.

This quotation implies that if your diet is bad, medicine will be of no use. But if you eat nutritious and natural food, you won’t need medicine.

How do we build on the success of our predecessors and continue to develop healthy and nutritious foods? How do we educate people who are unaware of past success and have distanced themselves from nature and natural food products?

How do we meet global demand for safe nutrient-dense natural foods?
This article will shed light on one of those natural superfoods that are close to nature.
Nowadays, gulping on health drinks and detox drinks has become a must regimen for people.
As demand is rising for promoting health drinks a lack of well-informed choice and awareness poses risk to people. This article will answer these questions for one natual superfood: wheatgrass which comes with a wide range of health benefits.

To start with, let’s explore what wheatgrass is, it is a food prepared from the cotyledon of the wheat plant (Triticum aestivum) or its relatives crop in the family of Poaceae.

In recent years, people have embraced wheatgrass’s positive impact. It is available in the market in varied forms. It is available in various forms- including powders, juices, liquids, capsules and tablets- constituting an array of healthy alternatives to choose from.

Wheatgrass has been touted as one of the best sources of nutrients due to its high content of protein (with a well-balanced amino acid profile), minerals, vitamins, and active enzymes. Wheatgrass is considered to be the major contributor of antioxidants.

Nutritional Profiling of Wheatgrass is as follows-

1. Vitamins-

Vitamin A- Maintains membrane integrity and enhances skin tone. Required for good eyesight, growth, and development. Present in – colored fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin B- Helps breakdown fat, carbohydrates, and proteins to be used as an energy fuel for the body. Sources- tuna, milk, GLV’s, lean meat, lentils, sunflower seeds, fortified cereals.

Wheatgrass is also a good source vitamin B-17, amygdaline that wards off cancer as reported in a few pieces of research. Found in seeds of fruits like bitter almonds, apple, peaches, and plum.

Vitamin C- Boosts immune system, saves from scurvy, maintains healthy gum. Usually found in citrus fruits like lime, oranges, kiwi, papaya, mango. Wheatgrass contains more vitamin C than oranges.

Vitamin E- Fat soluble natural antioxidant that boosts the immune system, scavenges free radicals in the body, maintains proper blood flow. It also helps in tissue repair. Sources- sunflower seeds, spinach, almonds, olives, and fortified oils.

Vitamin K- Assist in blood clotting helping wounds to heal timely. Maintain normal bone composition. Found in Brussels, sprouted beans, broccoli, kale, spinach.

Proteins and amino acids- Proteins for building muscle strength and provide antibodies, hormones. Amino acids aid in digestion, blood formation.

Enzymes- aid in digestion found in wheatgrass in treating dyspepsia.

Enzymes found in Wheatgrass-

Proteases and Amylases- promote digestion of starch, proteins, fat, and cellulose. Can help to offset worst conditions of leukocytosis, an immune response to food heat over 118 degree Celsius.

Cytochrome oxidase- It is a large transmembrane protein complex in mitochondrion, power plant of cell reacting with oxygen to release energy.

Catalase- a most efficient enzyme that protects each individual cells from the toxic effect of hydrogen peroxide that is produced by bacteria in the body.

Lipases- Enhances digestion of fats, starch, protein in the gastrointestinal tract. In absence of lipases, fat will accumulate in arteries, veins, and capillaries.

2. Minerals-

Iron- Key component of hemoglobin. Sources- bean, nuts, dried fruits, fortified cereals, soybean, and green leafy vegetables.

Calcium- Abundant mineral within the body required for nerve transmission and muscle function mostly found in bones and teeth. Sources- dairy products, sesame seeds

Magnesium- Fourth most abundant mineral in the body maintains healthy bones and teeth. Provide calming effect on nerves and muscles, aids sleep. Prevent fatty infiltration in liver cases.

Potassium- Maintains heartbeat, mineral balance and reduces the onset of diseases. Found in banana, spinach, baked potato with skin.

Zinc- Required for catalytic activity of enzymes, play role in immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing. Mainly present in protein-rich foods and in nuts, beans, seafood, fortified cereals, whole grains, and dairy products.

Sodium- Maintains extracellular fluid volume in the body, acid-base balance, and proper water transport.

Chlorophyll- Have Prophylactic and healing property. The most important element of wheatgrass contained in the cells of chloroplasts about 70% providing proteins, carbohydrates, and fat.

Used as healer inside and outside the body due to its antibacterial properties.

An abundant source of alkaline elements with striking chemical similarity with the blood composition of human’s pH range of 7.4.

Let us have a glance at the positive health claims of wheatgrass as reported in numerous research findings-

Chlorophyll in wheatgrass high in oxygen and light energy, impart a positive effect on Hemoglobin. Chlorophyll gives a green color to grass, almost similar to hemoglobin of humans referred to as ‘Green Blood’.

This green blood remedy is used to cure many diseases like Hypertension, Diabetes, constipation, Eczema, Insomnia to name a few.
• Due to antibacterial properties, it neutralizes infection, subsides inflammation, detoxifies liver and colon. Because it comes with life-saving substances – vitamin B complex and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K). Clinical trials show the healing properties of wheatgrass in treating cancer.
• It strengthens immune system owing to its antioxidant proprieties. Research findings have also reported the use of wheatgrass in treating ulcerative colitis.
Fiber content sweeps away high cholesterol and maintains normal blood pressure.
Cure tooth disorders, treat blood disorders- Anemia, and skin disorders such as eczema, skin itching, gangrene. Diseases of joints- osteoarthritis, fracture, and gout both chronic and acute forms.
Heals intestinal ulcers as wheat grass contain bioflavonoids like quercetin, luteolin, apigenin, and chlorophyll.
Wheatgrass is gluten-free as it is prepared only from stem and grass level of the wheat plant, not from the kernel of the seed which has gluten. This is a boon for people suffering from Celiac disease.

Celiac disease (CD) a malabsorption syndrome wherein individual lacks the enzyme to cleave the gluten protein. Research reported consumption of juice of 8-10 tender leaves of wheatgrass gives relief in CD symptoms.

Benjamin Ruskin, MD recommends chlorophyll due to its antiseptic property. He suggests clinical uses of chlorophyll in cleansing of toxins from the body, wound heals, treat varicose veins, ulcers, cure pyorrhea.

In most of the cases, prevent graying of hair, foul-smelling odors, heal rectal sores, cure sinusitis, subside typhoid fever, and prevents eczema as reported in American Journal of Surgery in 1940.

The debate on the subject of nutrition and their effects on human health and the environment is paramount. Generally, intake of wheatgrass is considered to be safe but in few individuals have reported nausea, headache.

Opinions on the benefits and related risks of wheatgrass may arise as intake of it in few can come with the sign of allergies. As they are grown in soils or water contaminated with bacteria and molds when consumed raw.

Although more research is needed to expand the validation and acceptance of wheatgrass as a potential health promoter.

Following steps can bring out positive results in the process of bringing wheatgrass into market prominently:

• To advocate possible health benefits to people by conducting in market confirmation of safety.
• To verify safety at efficacious levels and demonstrate the bioactive component.
• To determine the intake level necessary to achieve the desired state of health benefits.
Selecting the right and nutritious food can be one of the most important decisions that an individual will make. Today, choosing the right food is more important than ever.

The emergence of numerous food industries has brought a lot of alternatives and share of challenges. But it does promise a widening horizon of possibilities for people to reach to a contemporary health standard on a truly global scale.

The Takeaway:

Always buy wheatgrass from trusted and authentic suppliers to ensure its safety to reap its full health benefits.

Wheatgrass cannot be included in daily diet so there is a need to supplement diet with its incorporation in food products.
Avoid wheatgrass if you are allergic to it, also during pregnancy and milk feeding.
Try to notice what dosage and what timings works best for you to take wheatgrass with the help of trial and error.
Along with taking wheatgrass to try to modify your lifestyle in a healthy way to improve overall health.
Before adding wheatgrass to your routines always check for your doctor recommends.
Have you ever tried wheatgrass juice? How does it taste? Do share your reviews.

References:

  • http://en.Wikipedia.org/wiki/wheatgrass.
  • Mujariya, Rajesh & Bodla, Ramesh. (2012). A study on wheat grass and its Nutritional value. 2.
  • Swati p, Sushma D, Indira R, Alka G, Mamta D.2012. Multitude potential of wheat grass juice (Green blood). Chronicles of Young Scientist 1 (2): 23-28.
  • Bar-Sela, Tsailic M , Freid G, Goldberg H (2007). Wheat grass juice may improve hematological toxicity related to chemotherapy in breast cancer patients: a pilot study. Nutrition and Cancer 58(1): 43-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17571966.
  • Marwah Rk, Bansal D, Kaur S and Trehan A (2004). Wheat grass juice reduces transfusion requirements in thallasemic patients. Indian Pediatrics 41: 716-20.
  • Ben-Arve 2002. Wheat grass juice in the treatment of active distal ulcerative colitis: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, 37(4): 444-9.

Nutrition Tips for Better Performance During Exams

Nutrition Facts during Exams

Here’s a topic that is really timely and that might interest you.

“Good Nutrition to Improve your Performance during Exam Days”

The topic may pop up a few questions in your mind most probably,

Do foods have something to do with your performance?

 Can the right food improve your exam performance?

There is research done on students who eat Breakfast perform better in exams. This makes your first objective of the topic.

What matters during exams is complete focus and no illness. There is no single food to help you achieve good health, but a combination of foods does as discussed below.

1.   Do not skip your Breakfast

There is two scientific reasoning to it that you must know.

Firstly, Breakfast= Break your Fast that is when you wake up in the morning you had no meals for about 8 to 10 hours. So as the name suggests you need to break the overnight fast.

Secondly, your brain is an important organ of your body; it uses up to 20% of the energy that we need every day.

But when you study for your exams or any competitive exams your food often comes down the priority list.

Recently, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a program for school children named ‘Pariksha Pe Charcha 2.0’.

If you see that program you will get insights into techniques to overcome exam fear, how to improve concentration and how to cope with peer and parents pressure relating to true events by the PM.

This program in itself is a great initiative for students. If you haven’t gone through the program I can summarize it for you.

Answering to questions of students on exams our PM gave an example denoting teachings of Swami Vivekananda.

If you are all prepared for your exam and you still feel anxiety and fear till the exam ends.

You should have confidence in yourself to overcome this fear. Do yoga and meditation to remain stress-free.

Always do competition with yourself for improvement, not with others.

Talk to your parents about your interest and careers. Stay close to nature to stay healthy.

Any exam is a mental marathon in which continuous energy is needed. With the right food and drink, you can improve your concentration, alertness and maintain it through your exam days and beyond.

On the flip side to it, wrong food choices can make you feel lazy, tired and sluggish.

Now, you would like to know what food you must have in your breakfast…  Right?

Before that understand some Facts about Breakfast-

  • If you eat your breakfast regularly you are less likely to gain weight and less prone to develop diabetes and heart disease.
  • It is also positively associated with good academic performance.
  • You develop emotional quotient when you eat with your family.

2. Have a healthy Plate:

  •  Whole Grains: If you eat foods high in sugar like fruit juices and cakes you’ll get instant energy but it soon gets digested and makes you feel hungrier. Because these are simple carbohydrates that disturb your blood sugar levels and make you feel tired easily.

Instead, add complex carbohydrates that are digested slowly in your body and slowly releases energy and keep your stomach feel fuller for a longer time.

  •  Protein-Rich Foods: like yogurt, milk, eggs helps in keeping brain healthy and improves concentration. It gives a feeling of fullness for a longer time. So, you don’t feel hungry while writing your paper.
  • Green Leafy Vegetables: Important to maintain Iron levels and hemoglobin levels. If you don’t eat these foods you lack focus and feel tired.

You might have heard of a cartoon character that eats ‘spinach’ and gets charged up to help people in problems. Do you remember that character? It was… Popeye.

  •  Fruits: Fruits are rich in fibers that slow the digestion process and you don’t feel hungry and you eat less. Also, include vitamin C rich fruits like kiwi, lemons, and oranges.
  • Healthy Fats: Olive oil, mustard oil, canola oil, and nuts. White cheese in moderation.
  •  Water- Stay hydrated

Because 60% of our body is made up of water and there is always a need to replenish it on daily basis.

Not just plain water, you can have fruit infused water and a glass of milk, buttermilk, homemade smoothies, and plain green tea.

Hydration helps you stay focused if you don’t drink enough water one can feel tired, little concentration, headaches, and lower alertness.

It is better to avoid tea, coffee and fruit juices, and fizzy drinks. As these foods are high in sugar that disturbs your energy levels.

A study showed that if you carry a water bottle with you during exams a 5% improvement in performance was observed.

Tip: Drink water 1 hour before the exams or in between exams.

3. Snacking during Exam Days:

Stay Away from Cereal bars (High in added sugar content causes a dip in energy levels)

Go For Nuts and seed (High in protein gives you a feeling of fullness for a longer time so you don’t munch on foods).

Stay Away from Fruit Juices (Again high in added sugar)

Go For  High fiber fruits like Apple, Pear; Banana (maintains blood sugar levels)

Stay Away from Chips and fries (Low in fiber content gives you an instant feeling of fullness and quickly feels hungry)

Go For Eat a handful of roasted nuts, Popcorn that are low in calories

Stay Away from Milk chocolates (High in sugar and fat)

Go For Dried fruits and dark chocolates (High in fiber and good for the brain)

4.  A Good Night’s Sleep- Always have a Quality Sleep

According to research what you study now is registered as short-term memory your brain needs quality sleep to make it a permanent memory. Also if you sleep less than an hour it affects your grades by 10% decrease.

 Important Tips:

Have light meals 3 hours before you go to sleep. But, you can take milk, high fiber Dalia with dried fruits and nuts rather sugar in it.

Avoid coffee, tea, fruit juices 4 hours before bed.

Bonus: Foods that Boost Brain functions:

  1. Almonds-Rich in anti-oxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and may help make you smarter.
  2. Walnuts- Rich in DHA and omega-3 fatty acids and tops the list of nuts for brain health.
  3. Apple- Maintains metabolism, fights off aging and improves memory. Eating apple daily helps maintain levels of acetylcholine, a brain neurotransmitter.
  4. Pear- Packed with anti-oxidants, dietary fiber, cholesterol-free helps improve brain function.
  5. Cherries- Helps improve memory due to presence of anti-oxidants, omega-3 fatty acid.
  6. Cocoa-Packed with neuroprotective compounds such as theobromine and caffeine helps to cognitive health.
  7. Peanuts- Good source of anti-oxidant (vitamin E) have a protective effect on brain function.
  8. Eggs- Contain a brain compound known as choline that helps form brain neurotransmitter essential for brain function.
  9. Turmeric- Power medicinal herb having anti-inflammatory properties. Presence of a bioactive compound (curcumin) prevents illness.
  10. Spinach- Full of anti-oxidants (flavonols such as catechin, epicatechin), vitamins (A, C and K) improves brain function.
  11. Green tea- Green tea extracts is a power booster for brain as per research.
  12. Yogurt- A good source of probiotics helps improve healthy bacteria gut bacteria for gut health.
  13. Cheese- Helps to maintain brain function
  14. Avocados- Helps to improve concentration and mood.

 Quick fix healthy Breakfast Ideas:

During morning time everyone is in rush to school, college or office. You can prepare foods the previous night that are convenient to eat the next morning.

For example, Plain yogurt with fruits and nuts, Omelet, Boiled eggs, low- fat milk porridge, mixed fruit salad and a homemade smoothie.

Photo credit: Vectors graphic designed by iconicbestiary (www.freepik.com)

Nutrition Facts You Need to Know

Looking for weight loss and overall health in the digital age is in many ways a mixed blessing. Technology on one hand is a threshold to endless potential weight loss diets, nutrtion facts, health and fitness approaches.

But, on the flip side it is difficult to choose which diet to follow. Plus, what activity supercharges your health and fitness.

Pick the right food, right diet to improve your overall health that hits the right note of your health needs.

Myth#1: Gluten Free Diet is More Healthier

What is it: Diet that excludes gluten content in food. Gluten is a wheat protein.

What it is not: Gluten-Free Diet is Guilt-Free Diet

Fact: Replace gluten-free diet to Low-Gluten Diet with High Fiber as better alternative.

A Gluten-free diet is beneficial for people suffering from Celiac Disease (an autoimmune allergic response to the gluten protein found in wheat, rye and wheat products).

A recent study suggested a low-gluten diet with high fiber has a beneficial health effect on our microbiome (gut bacteria composition in the intestine) that improves healthy gut bacteria. These changes in intestinal function alleviate bloating.

Research suggests that there is proven ways to modest weight loss with both low-gluten, high fiber diet over a high-gluten diet.

Studies have previously shown improvement in the condition of irritable bowel syndrome (IBD) and other gastrointestinal symptoms (bloating, constipation, stomach cramps). These are the gastrointestinal disorders that prevail in about 20% of the Western population.

A long-term study is needed to establish the beneficial effects of a low-gluten diet in healthy individuals. Although, intake of the low-gluten diet is prevalent in the general healthy population to aid in weight loss and lessen intestinal discomfort caused due to gluten insensitivity.

Mostly a gluten-free diet available in the market is deprived of fiber and nutritional content. Nutritional composition of Gluten-free diet can be enhanced when it is- high fiber enriched and minimally processed for those who prefer a low-gluten diet.

Benefits:

  1. Improves healthy gut bacteria
  2. Combat excess weight and intestinal discomfort
  3. Less bloating was observed in some healthy individual and along with IBS.

Tip: Replace fiber from wheat and rye with fiber from vegetables, brown rice, oats, quinoa, and corn.

My Advice: Check for gluten-free ingredients carefully

Myth#2: It is healthy to lose weight with the Low Carbohydrate Diet

What it is: A quick-fix for weight loss

What it’s not: A long-term weight loss approach

Fact: Some carbs are good for your health and some aren’t.

Sugar is a bad carbohydrate and fiber is a good carbohydrate present in whole grains and oats says Professor Jim, University of Otago. Therefore by cutting carbohydrate from your diet, you are also cutting down fiber that affects your health in the long-term.

High carbohydrate diet is good unless it is high in fiber as it has protective effects on heart and gut.

As WHO explains, a diet high in fiber (whole grain pasta), nuts and pulses will cut down chances of heart disease and aids healthy weight loss.

Tip- On dividing number of carbohydrate per serving by number of grams of fiber can give you an insight of good carbohydrate foods.

Cut on added sugars, processed foods, and carbonated drinks. Add minimally processed foods in your diet. Try quiona, amaranth, farro, millet in addition to brown rice and whole wheat products.

Myth#3: Cut Fat for Weight Loss

What it is: Diet devoid of Essential Fats

What it is not: Healthy approach to Eating

Fact: As per various studies it has been proved that fat isn’t always the culprit when it comes to extra inches around your waistline.

It’s good to stay away from fried and processed foods as they are high in trans fat. Trans fat is found in foods cooked in partially hydrogenated oil (a type of bad fat). Such a diet increases the risk factor of developing cardiac disease by 12% according to a study published in the British Medical Journal.

But, before jumping on any conclusion take note of all those good fats that improve health and aids in weight loss.

Add healthy nuts and seeds rich in good fats (MUFA and PUFA) in your diet to improve heart health, lower inflammation, maintain healthy skin and hair.

Good fats include: Healthy fats such as polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) and monounsaturated fats (MUFA) also helps lower bad LDL cholesterol and improve good HDL cholesterol.

Polyunsaturated fats include vegetable oils, omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, nuts and seeds. Monounsaturated fats include avocado, plant origin oils like canola oil, olive oil.

Tip: Keep healthy nuts and seeds in your kitchen and bag as snacks.

Related: Quick Guide to Healthy Fats- In a Nutshell

Myth#4: Juices aids in Weight Loss

Fact: Juicing is not the right way to lose weight for long-term says Amy Gorin, MS, and RDN. Relying on juices depletes you from protein and healthy fats required by your body for proper functioning.

Even 100% fruit juice adds more calories to your meal along with other sweet-sweetened beverages. A 2011 Harvard study explains, sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to long-term weight gain therefore stick to not more than one small glass of juice a day.

Juices fill you with the only carbohydrate that gets easily digested, makes you feel hungry again. Whereas, protein and healthy fats keep you full for a longer duration and delays hunger.

People include sugar-sweetened drinks in their diet. According to a study consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is about 63% in children and 49% in adults. This forms the major source of added sugar that provides calories without nutrients.

Home-made smoothies without sugar, plain green tea, infused water are a better alternative to provide ample an amount of nutrients.

It is recommended to eat a well-balanced diet that comprises of- fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats along with non-sweetened beverages.

Good Protein like salmon and chickpeas are great picks. Also avoid foods that add empty calories and no nutrition such as alcohol, fizzy drinks etc.

Eat food as a whole rather in liquid form as it leaves you much fuller. Simple fruit juices are loaded with sugars and are high on calories. One bottle of cola has 200 calories, and one cup of apple juice is around 115 calories. One can of beer have 154 calories with no significant nutrition content.

Artificially flavored water, diet colas, and diet soda are not what they are meant to be. These drinks make you feel full as they lack nutrients and unable to turn off satiety hormones.

Myth#5: Dieting is a good way to Lose Weight

What it is: Modest to severe food restriction

What it is not: Magic pill to lose weight

Fact: Focus on what works- A healthy eating behavior to maintain a healthy weight.

Why dieting doesn’t work? It is an outdated and ineffective approach to weight loss. If you want to be healthy, you need to get of this relic and find a new approach. Dieting posses little significance today as calorie restriction leads to undernourishment and calorie-dense but nutreints deprived foods leads to malnourishment.

Don’t neglect colors in your diet: Fruits and vegetables are loaded with nutrients to provide you with vitamin A, B, K and minerals such as fiber, iron, carotenoids, and anti-oxidants, says clinical dietician Beth Morris.

Time is the key: It’s good to change your eating pattern rather foods. A study says to eat within a 12-hour window to let your body perform repair and regenerate activities at night. This process works within the biological clock of 24 hours on daily basis.

For example, if you eat breakfast at 8 am in the morning then eat your dinner till 8 pm in night. This helps your body overcome inflammation and disease.

My advice: Cook your meal more often at home. This will help you develop a healthy relationship with your food. You’ll enjoy the taste, flavors, aroma of your meal more rather counting each calorie.

Myth#6: All Sugars are bad

Fact: Go for natural sugars over artificial sugars. Natural sugars are already present in whole foods such as milk (Lactose), plain yogurt (Lactose), and fruits (Fructose).

Natural sugars are a better alternative over added sugars as they are packed with health-promoting nutrients such as calcium, iodine, magnesium, potassium, and fiber along with natural sugars.

Added sugars sabotage your metabolism leading to heart disease, type-2 diabetes, cancer, weight gain and other inflammatory diseases. You will be surprised to know that, even if you don’t eat sweetened foods like dessert and cookies your foods have hidden sugar in it.

Added sugars are present in your diet ranges from high fructose syrup, maple syrup to honey, and glucose. Around 70% of processed and packaged foods (breakfast cereals, soups, flavored yogurt) have added sugar in it.

As per the CDC report, 14% of total calories comprised of added sugars in the Western diet. Consumption of added sugars should be less than 10% of 2000 calories/day (<200 calories).

According to American Medical Association, for a woman 6 teaspoon (25g) and for men 9 (36g) teaspoon of sugar is enough to add sweetness in your diet.

The Takeaway:

Try to add fruits in your breakfast for sweetness. Buy plain oats over flavored oats available in the market loaded with added sugar and excess sodium.

Also, enhance your meal with the addition of plain yogurt not flavored yogurt. Then you can enjoy more natural sugars. Reconsider your diet and lifestyle.

Related: Nutrition Facts Label about Added Sugars

Myth#7: Drink 8-ounce glasses of water daily to stay hydrated

Fact: Our body comprises of 60% of water. You can’t store water rather you need to continually replenish your body with water throughout the day.

Drinking those bland and boring 8-10 glasses of water is now revamped to flavor-infused water along with herbal tea and green tea.

Along with a glass of water, beverages (tea, coffee) you can add foods rich in water. As water-rich foods (pineapple, strawberry, celery, watermelon, oranges, and spinach) not only keep you hydrated but are packed with vitamins and minerals, anti-oxidants add up to your weight loss.

During summer gorging on smoothies that has a blend of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats is the morning go-getter.

Myth#8: Organic foods are better than Conventional foods

Fact: Despite the high prices of organic foods, its consumption is on perk over the last few years. Organic as the name suggests organic means more natural, ethical, and healthier without artificial GMO seeds, pesticides, and fertilizers.

Unlike conventional processing of foods organic farming involves traditional ways and uses organic compost.

We tend to buy organic foods as they are touted to be high on anti-oxidants, vitamin C, and omega-3 fatty acid. There is mixed evidence about it. Hence, there’s not a much significant difference in its nutritional value compared to conventional foods.

Organic cultivation has less use of pesticides such as sulphur, natural vegetable oils, and copper sulphate.

Toxic content in any food depends on concentration and vulnerability of toxins not on how natural that food is grown.

It is healthy to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables judiciously with little significance on how it is produced.

In respect to the environment, conventional foods are better than organic foods. A study showed that organic farming requires more land to produce and emits more greenhouse gas compared to the same crop grown from conventional methods.

The Takeaway:

A healthy eating approach boils down to two factors viz. expectation and personal choice.

Research says to include more fruits and vegetables in your diet to attain health benefits of fiber found in them. Buy locally grown foods instead that is in season to avail every nutrient.

The organic tag is not a guarantee for your food security. Moreover, the difference in taste and quality of organic and conventional foods are minimal if any at all.

Tip: In practice, rinse the food thoroughly before consumption to remove bacteria, pesticides from outside.

Myth#9: Multivitamins protect you from Diseases

Fact: Multivitamin intake should never interfere with nutritious, varied and regular diet. Consumption of multivitamins daily for disease prevention is a two edged sword.

As per Harvard led Physician Health study for a period of ten years in 1000 men showed that multivitamins lowered the risk of developing a /diagnosis of cancer by 8% but not death.

In another Harvard led PHC study no beneficial effect of multivitamin supplements were observed in the prevention of heart disease and related symptoms such as heart attack, stroke or death from cardiovascular disease.

The physicians in the study had a more nutritious diet, more physically active and were involved in less unhealthy routines compared to the general population.

The Takeaway:

More than spending time and money on supplements focus on getting essential nutrients from healthy foods that are seasonal, locally grown and home-cooked.

According to American Medical Association (AMA) and American Cancer Society (ACS), a healthy diet is superior to taking a multivitamin, when you already on a healthy diet you are less likely to benefit from extra multivitamin pills, says Dr. Kormos.

Overall Optimal health is not based on a single nutrient now rather a synergy of varied nutrients from the food we eat render potential health benefits.

Choosing nutrient-dense foods such as plain yogurt, whole grains, salmon, leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and lentils helps you meet nutrient and vitamin needs.

But, people who eat a vegan and a vegetarian diet, vitamin D recommended intake cannot be met through foods.

Vitamin D supplements (600-800 IU) are a good idea as sources of vitamin D are of animal origin (such as tuna, fatty fish, salmon, cod liver oil, and mackerel).

Hint: You can also add Vitamin D fortified foods in your diets such as orange juice, soy milk, some dairy products, and cereals.

The decision to include supplements in your diet is personalized based on your diet and your risks. Review the recommendation of supplements with your doctor to make the important health choice, says Dr. LeBoff.

We naturally focus on what to eat at the end of the day, on weekends or at any function that you are about to attend. Rather focus on what you will eat now. Plan your day around an hour interval will simplify your eating behavior.

Do not wait until your body tells you to stop eating if you happen to wait it’s too late- you have already skipped the window of healthy eating for 12-hours. Remember, it is more important to add whole foods that slow the digestion of glucose and turn off hunger hormones.

Foods that Boost Brain Power

Foods that Boost Brain Power

Have you ever forgotten where you keep your car keys or house keys? Trust me it has happened to me as well. Often your friends and family may joke about you getting old.

However, changes in cognitive function are not a matter to laugh. The ability to multi-task, manage time and make decisions dwindles when you reach the age of 60.

Do you sometimes fall short of words while speaking to your friends about your favorite song or movie? Even worse, do you forget your friends’ names? That can be a total disaster.

Of course, this is not done intentionally but is a result of normal aging.
Studies show that 1 in 6 people have a tendency to develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Good News

In the past, it was believed that your brain cells start to decline or die early in life as you age. Recent research shows that the brain has the ability to grow new cells, increase in size, and make new connections throughout an entire lifetime.

Fostering these positive changes and improving your memory is possible through brain foods, along with exercise and meditation.
The researchers have identified several foods that boost brain power and may help protect you from cognitive decline.

The brain functions like a computer in the way it can access information in the form of chunks. Information in our brain in the form of memories makes us what we are.

However, with age, memory lapses occur due to changes in the structure and function of the brain-not necessarily because of age-related diseases like dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Our brain requires proper nutrition, learning new skills, and care to retain useful information.

The great breakthrough in your life comes when you realize that you can learn anything you need to learn to accomplish any goal that you set for yourself. This means there are no limits on what you can be, have or do- Brian Tracy.

Cognitive health is a cornerstone of health and well being. It determines the quality of our decisions and, therefore, our entire life. Prior research has identified several factors for better cognitive function.

I would not be surprised if some of you have grown weary listening to memory fades with time which aging has produced. I’ll turn to the constructive side of the problem.

Although as we age changes are inevitable but there is a lot of reasons to stay young in mind.
Focus on the positive changes and foods that boost brain power, improve your memory and concentration to age well.

Specific nutrients in food affect cognitive function and promote mental fitness. Also, gut hormones and hormones in the brain like BDNF plays a crucial role to nourish the brain.

Brain Foods that boost brain health and cognitive function is not a latest exotic foods but are present in your kitchen.

1. Yogurt- A Probiotic linked to Brain Health

They are host to gut-friendly bacteria (Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria). These good bacteria in yogurt improve mood.

Studies have proved a link between the therapeutic effect of gut bacteria and cognitive centers of the brain. 

Yogurt cures the condition of dysbiosis that involves neurological disorders such as depression and anxiety, autoimmune disorders like allergies, Celiac disease, and IBD.

A study also proved consumption of probiotic yogurt for 8 weeks decreased inflammatory cytokines in overweight patients.

It has beneficial impact on cognitive function in (Alzheimer’s Disease) AD patients.

Add yogurt in your diet regularly will help you enhance your good bacteria that improves brain function.

2. Walnuts- A Brain Food          

Walnuts which resembles brain shape  are loaded with high amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids ( PUFA) and deliver potential benefits to keep the brain healthy.

Walnut-rich diet has polyphenolic compounds that work as an anti-oxidant and prevents the inflammatory burden to brain cells. Walnut is a good source of alpha-linolenic acid, plant based omega-3 fatty acid.

It also improves cognitive control that helps in the decreased feeling of hunger and appetite and aids in weight loss.

Food rich in anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals such as, English walnuts and Manchurian walnuts (Juglans mandshurica Maxim.) are rich in phytochemicals, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) positively affects brain health.

Add walnuts in the grocery list to incorporate its nutrient in your diet. Eat a quarter cup of walnuts for daily intake of DHA.

3. Indian Gooseberries- Superfoods for Brain 

Berries such as Indian Gooseberries, blackberries, blueberries naturally packed with anti-oxidants. A bioactive compound that fights off free radicals.

Free radicals: Free radicals as the name suggests are free and unstable oxygen molecule that results from incomplete oxygen metabolism. When not counteracted can lead to oxidative stress a risk factor for CAD, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and other inflammation.

Recent research has established the role of anti-oxidants in preventing brain cells damage. The combination of flavonoids, anthocyanins, and polyphenols in gooseberries have anti-inflammatory properties against organ damage.

Berries are rich in anthocyanins prevents neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Eat raw or pickled gooseberries to add anti-oxidants to your diet.

4. Green Tea- A Beverage Correlated with Brain Health

A 2017 systematic review study published in Phytomedicine Journal, showed evidence that green tea decreases anxiety and boosts memory and attention.  A combined effect of L-theanine and caffeine is beneficial for better cognition.

Drinking green tea has anti-stress effects due to a combination of L-theanine, Epigallocatechin (EGC) and arginine. 

Another 2017 study showed a beneficial effect of caffeine ( at a low dose of 40 mg) on long-duration cognitive tasks during exam marathon improves both alertness and performance.

L-theanine (200mg) improves calmness and with caffeine influences alertness and attention-switching tasks. A task that requires your unconscious attention shifting from one task to another.

Such as scheduling appointment, greeting patients while answering a phone in the hospital. In addition, reading work related document while making an online purchase or taking a business call while shopping etc.

5. Herbs- A traditional approach to Brain Protection

Herbs such as Ginger, Cinnamon, Turmeric, Ginseng, Rosemary and Chinese celery. These herbs have neuroprotective benefits as it contains bioactive compounds that help to delay the aging process.

Moreover, they are rich in polyphenol that has anti-amyloidogenic activity. It has a therapeutic effect on dementia.

Fermented Ginseng: A study done on a memory deficient mouse model investigated the protective effects of fermented ginseng roots to improve memory. 

6. Virgin Coconut Oil- 

Virgin coconut oil along with exercise on a treadmill has been studied to lower effects of chronic stress on anxiety-like behavior in mice during lactation. Coconut oil is a natural source of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). 

Therefore, fresh coconut has anti-inflammatory properties as they are better absorbed than other saturated fats of animal origin. Consume about two tablespoon of coconut oil daily to harness its health benefits. You can also add coconut in your diet as coconut chutney or coconut milk.

7.  Foods rich in Resveratrol:

Foods rich in resveratrol such as blueberries, cranberries, pistachios can alleviate oxidative stress by improving brain energy metabolism in a study conducted in rats.

8. Mushroom:

A double-blind placebo-controlled trial done by researchers on 50-80 years of participants showed that edible mushroom improves mild cognitive impairment.

9. Food rich in Flavonoid:

Foods rich in flavonoids such as apple, dark chocolate, and broccoli is efficient in improving memory and cognitive function in both humans and animals.

Dietary foods along with flavonoid supplementation have a therapeutic effect on cognitive deficits that result from neurodegeneration in animal studies.

More studies are needed in investigating the therapeutic effect of flavonoids in the cognitive function of humans.

10. Beans- A Good Source of Fuel to Brain Health

Beans are also known as legumes and pulses, for example, kidney beans, lentils, and chickpeas. Beans are a pack of fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates.

Glucose provides energy to the brain that is obtained through foods. Beans can provide a steady source of glucose.

As fiber from complex carbohydrates in beans aids in slow digestion and thus a slow release of energy. It aids in stabilizing blood sugar levels and is the source of glucose to the brain.

Bean is a good substitute for meat products as an alternate protein source. Add beans in your diet about half a cup daily.

The Takeaway:

In childhood you might have learned or applied the technique of learning through mnemonics. Mnemonics is basically a technique to improve brain’s ability to learn, retain and remember any information.

The other technique is learning by association in which we relate information to things we already know to make meaningful information for a long-term memory.

It is normal as we age our memory and cognitive skills frails but with the help of cognitive reserve can rewire the brain to work properly and maintain its health.

There is another reason that takes a toll in brain’s health, and that is procrastination. If we break our task in small chunks, it becomes easy to complete that work within the deadline that gives less stress to the brain.

References:

  1. Ejtahed H. S., Mohtadi-Nia J., Homayouni-Rad A., Niafar M., Asghari-Jafarabadi M., Mofid V. (2012). Probiotic yogurt improves antioxidant status in type 2 diabetic patientsNutrition 28, 539–543. 10.1016/j.nut.2011.08.013
  2. Tomas Cerdo, Alicia Ruiz et al. 2017. Probiotic, Prebiotic, and Brain Development. Nutrients.9(11):1247. doi: 10.3390/nu9111247.
  3. Mancini, Edele & Beglinger, Christoph & Drewe, Juergen & Zanchi, Davide & Lang, Undine & Borgwardt, Stefan. (2017). Green tea effects on cognition, mood and human brain function: A systematic review. Phytomedicine. 34. 10.1016/j.phymed.2017.07.008.
  4. Christina Dietz, Matthijs Dekker. 2017. Effect of Green Tea Phytochemicals on Mood and Cognition. Current Pharmaceutical Design. 23(29). DOI : 10.2174/1381612823666170105151800.

 

4 Ways to Decode the Science behind Weight Loss Plan

Weight Loss Plan

This article will focus on factors which influence required Weight Loss Plan in the long-term.

The Objective of this article is to provide you tips to lose weight.

Highlights:

Set your Goal for Weight Loss that is realistic and can be achieved by you.

  1. Set a target Weight for Weight Loss.
  2. Planned exercise for targeted Weight.
  3. Maintain Calorie levels.
  4. Understand Food Labelling and healthy behavioral modification.

Objective 1:  Set a target Weight for Weight Loss

 Follow six tips that will work for you to reach your target weight (explained in the following para). Think of the time when you had put on extra weight. Then the time, you weighed lowest as an adult.

Make a Note: of the feelings of dejection or happiness, you had on mentioned above both occasions at your physical appearance.

According to a set point theory, your body tends to maintain an optimal weight range even if you don’t indulge in dieting and high-intensity exercise.
This optimal weight range is genetically programmed to maintain a certain amount of body fat which in turn keep your weight stable.

Therefore, Make a Note: of your stable weight when not at any diet plan.

‘Set-point’ can be regulated with a well-balanced diet, restricted calorie, and increased physical activity. Optimal set point helps in weight loss.

Did you go through any medical issues because of excess weight? I probably did due to an underactive thyroid. Now, I have fixed it. You can do it as well.

Good News: Over-eating and physical inactivity are not to be blamed now for your gaining weight.

  1. Take a notebook or diary. Write down your weight as labelling highest and lowest.
  2. Do a little bit of journaling. Write down your thoughts, resolutions, comments of friends and family. These all work as a fuel to motivate you to reach your target weight.
  3. Calculate your Ideal Body Weight (IBW). Height and weight are ideal parameters for nutritional assessment as established in various studies. For instance, Hamwi method for Ideal Body Weight: If Sara’s height is 5 feet 3 inches and her weight is 65 kg. Overweight (BMI= kg/m2)   (a) Estimate IBW for height: For 5 feet ‘3 inch =100lbs+5×3 (5lb for each inch)=115lbs= 52Kg.                                                                                     (b) For IBW, estimate calories required for an obese individual of sedentary activtiy=52×(20 or 25)= 1170 Kcal on an average.
  4. Body Mass Index (BMI):

    Most accurate method of calculating the weight of an adult ( studies proves that BMI is stature independent measure of weight, good correlation with fat mass). Both IBW and BMI are used clinically.

Remember: Do not set high goals and do not get sad by weight plateau. These may occur due to water accumulation as fat gets lost.

5. Time Frame to Follow:

The Desirable rate of Weight Loss is 500 g – 1 pound per week. As explained below:

1 g of pure fat=9 Kcal and is equivalent to a storehouse of 7.7 Kcal. Therefore, 500 g (1/2kg) of body fat sums up to, 500×7.7= 3850 Kcal.

So, for the desired weight loss of about 500g per week=3850/7=550 Kcal per day.

For Overweight, 500 kcal is reduced from daily intake of an individual that is, < 20% above IBW.

For Obese, 750-1000 kcal is reduced from daily intake of an individual that is, >20% above IBW.

6. Monitor Your Weight:

One of the parameters to check the progress of weight loss plan is monitoring weight.

The best time to weigh yourself is before drinking or eating anything and with minimal clothes on. Fluctuation in weight may arise due to fluid shift and loss of fat from day-to-day.

The notebook or diary you maintain to write the weight in the duration of weight loss is enough. But, there are certain apps and websites as well to keep a record of your daily weight.

For instance, myFitnessPal, Fitbit, weight tracker, Bluetooth digital weighing scale with a smartphone app, and Body composition analyzer are easily available online.

Note: A study conducted by the American Heart Association suggests daily weighing aids in weight loss. People who weigh six to seven times a day are more self-aware of their changing behaviors than those who weigh only once a week in a weight loss plan.

Their findings focus on the technique of self-awareness to maintain weight effectively.

Objective 2 : A planned Exercise for targeted Weight 

Key to Weight Loss Program:  1. Calorie or energy balance. 2. Exercise

Calories In (food)=Calories Out (exercise), weight remains the same but, Calories In (healthy eating plan) < Calories Out (planned exercise)=Negative Energy Balance is the requirement for effective weight loss.

A Planned Exercise Program should be based on following factors:

(a) Duration and (b) Intensity

In addition to fitness, experts suggest, exercise is a proven therapeutic tool to minimize the risk of metabolic syndromes such as obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

(a) Requirement/ Duration of Daily Physical Activity as per hhs.gov:

For continuum health benefits, an adult must indulge in 150 to 300 minutes (2 and a 1/2 hours to 5 hours) of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

During vigorous-intensity you must do 75 to 150 minutes (1 hr 15 min to 2 hr 30 min) of aerobic exercise.

For children and adolescents from 6 to 17 years, 60 minutes (1 hr) of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise 3 days of the week is recommended.

Click here to read more: Pre-requisites for Exercise: Safety First

 Safety Tips before you Hit the Gym or Outdoor Exercise:

  1. Start with a warm-up and stretching routines.
  2. Stay hydrated, drink about 6 ounces of water a day, it is an important part of the vigorous-intensity exercise.
  3. Buy a good pair of shoes that are comfortable during the exercise.
  4. Consult the doctor before you take up weight training.
  5. Look for the weather conditions before you move out for exercise.

Objective 3  Maintain Calorie Levels 

Food is the basis of our life and provides our body with macronutrients and micronutrients with water. It involves digestion, absorption, and metabolism of food for optimal health of an individual.

A good diet is essential to meet the daily nutritional requirements of an individual and store nutrients in the body in the emergency condition like stress and strain.

An effective meal planning depends on factors like food habits, food availability and grocery shopping.

There is no single food or superfood that can offer all the nutrition, health benefits, and energy to nourish us.

According to 2015-2020 US Dietary Guidelines, a food combination across all the food groups while paying attention to calorie limits forms the healthy food pattern.

The Food Groups Comprise of: 

Macronutrients: A food group that includes foods rich in carbohydrate, protein, and fat required in large quantity in one’s diet.

Carbohydrate foods also are known as energy giving foods includes cereals and their products, starchy root and tubers, and sugar.

Foods rich in protein are of animal origin such as milk and milk products, fish, chicken, eggs, and poultry of good quality also known as bodybuilding foods.

Whereas, fats like nuts and oilseeds are energy dense foods that add palatability to the diet.

  • Eat 8-10 servings of whole-grains daily
  • 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily
  • 4-5 servings of nuts and seeds per week
  • 2-3 servings of low-fat milk daily

Related: Include Healthy Fats in your Diet

Micronutrients: These are protective foods needed in a small amount and forms the major part of nutrients to regulate functions of the body. These include vitamins and minerals.

Vitamins are required for energy production, immune function and other processes. Likewise, minerals regulate fluid balance and bone function and so on. All vegetables (except starches, tubers) and fruits fall in this group.

RDA or Recommended Dietary Allowances: A dietary intake level sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of all (97-98%) healthy individual at a specific life stage and gender group.

 Sample Menu for Healthy Weight Loss (7 days): Low in simple carbs, salt, and sugar, High in Fiber from complex or good carbs, low to moderate on healthy fats.

Monday:

  • Breakfast: Oats Upma with vegetables and nuts
  • Mid-morning: Plain Green tea (without milk and sugar)
  • Lunch: 1 whole fruit (Apple/ Kiwi/ Berries)
  • Evening snack: Guacamole with Garlic whole bread (1 in no).
  • Dinner: Pulses with Quinoa salad

Tuesday:

  • Breakfast: Oats pancake with mint and parsley puree and sprinkled flaxseeds
  • Mid-morning: Infused water ( Ing. cucumber, ginger, lemon, mint)
  • Lunch: Vegetable brown rice with grilled carrots, broccoli and curry sauce
  • Evening snack: Mixed Fruit salad
  • Dinner: Paneer Corn Wrap (cottage cheese) made from skim milk
Wednesday:
  • Breakfast: Baked beans with egg white omelet (2 in no.)
  • Mid-morning: 1 whole fruit (Apple/ Kiwi/ Papaya)
  • Lunch: Steamed idli with coconut chutney
  • Evening snack: Quinoa chips and plain green tea
  • Dinner: Baked Brussels sprouts with pickled and charred cucumber

Thursday:

  • Breakfast: Indian Vegetable Quinoa pilaf with egg whites (1 in no.)
  • Mid-morning: Baked apple with muesli toppings
  • Lunch: guacamole with kidney bean curry with bell peppers
  • Evening snack: A handful of nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts)
  • Dinner: Roasted Vegetables with roasted tuna fish/ lentils and plain yogurt

Friday:

  • Breakfast: Vegetable Poha (rice flakes with peanuts and cottage cheese) in olive oil
  • Mid-morning: Detox Green tea
  • Lunch: Pumpkin Ravioli with pineapple salsa
  • Evening snack: Healthy Salad Salsa ( sprouted mung beans, lime juice, spring onions, bell pepper, flax seeds, tomato, parsley)
  • Dinner: Vegetable jalfrezi, mint sauce with Bajra (millet) chapatis (1)

Saturday:

  • Breakfast: Boiled egg (2) with charred broccoli salad ( sprinkled with sunflower seeds and olive oil).
  • Mid-morning: Barley water/ Fenugreek infused water
  • Lunch: Pan seared salmon with parsley vinaigrette
  • Evening snack: Apple stew without sugar
  • Dinner: Oats peas dosa with Quinoa sprouts

Sunday:

  • Breakfast: Fruit and nuts steel-cut oatmeal porridge with no sugar (1 bowl)
  • Mid-morning: Infused water ( apple and pomegranate)
  • Lunch: Whole roasted cauliflower (1 medium), almond paste, lemon zest with roasted chickpeas (rinsed and dried) around 40 grams, olive oil.
  • Evening snack: Cucumber salad with soy sauce, tahini sauce, lentil sprouts, and olive oil
  • Dinner: Asian Quinoa salad with pan-seared salmon and fennel

* The above recipes are my personal choice. You can add or subtract foods of your choice, seasonal availability, and personal nutritionist recommendation.

* In case of lactose intolerance have plain or greek yogurt, soy milk/ almond milk. In Celiac disease eat quinoa, a gluten-free healthy substitute for wheat.

Objective 4 Understand Food label and Healthy Behavioral Modification

Studies show that people get motivated when changes are made in their home food environment.

An individual can be motivated to eat healthy food by not limiting but giving plenty of choices.

Self-awareness or self-control during weight loss goals is correlated to increase in activity in the prefrontal region of the brain. Success in weight loss largely depends on behavioral modifications.

Self-control overcomes the activity of leptin and ghrelin, hormones that lead to over-eating.

Always consult your physician and nutritionist before you take up any specific diet plan, exercise plan or supplements that suit your physiology.

Related: 6 Health behavior modifications to go for healthy food

Note: Diet low in simple carbohydrate with high fiber diet from good carbohydrate has proven health effects in weight loss, cardiovascular health.

Reviewed by-

Zoomi Singh

Dietician, PhD (Nutritional Sciences)

Top 20 Fermented Foods- Ultimate Source of Probiotics

Top 20 Fermented Foods

  The Top 20 Fermented Foods is an ultimate source of Probiotics for your Gut

Probiotics are live bacteria ‘friendly’ to your gut to promote its health. You can avail probiotics through food or supplements.

Related: What is Probiotics?

Fermented foods are important traditional foods around the world.

Do I need Probiotics? What kind?

Here’s a List of Top 20 Fermented Foods:

  •  Probiotics Food from Fermented Legumes:

A lot of research has proven the benefits of taking soy products. Even a study on the animal model showed the benefit of soy protein to prevent bone loss in early adulthood.

1. Tempeh:

It is a traditional soy product (a type of fermented food) of Indonesia.

The process involves soaking soybean overnight. Next, boil and drain and then fermented to bind soybean into a soybean cake.

The starter used is Rhizopus oligosporus, a fungus. It has a nutty flavor. An excellent source of calcium and vitamin K. An alternative plant-based protein to meat. A good source of dietary fats, niacin (prevents Parkinson disease), phosphorus (aids in the restoration of bones and cells).

2. Soya Sauce:

It is prepared from soaked and steamed soybean when subjected to lactic acid fermentation ( by Tetragenococus halophilus) and ethanolic fermentation ( by yeast named Zygosacchromyces and Torulopsis).

Processed under 4.5- 4.9 pH pasteurized and bottled as soya sauce. Adding it on a vegetarian diet can help to strengthen bone in women.

Expert says it is not necessary to use typical Asian soy products in the main dish. You can enhance your diet by addition of tofu, soy milk, and soy sauce as snacks, appetizers and so on.

3. Natto:

A traditional fermented food made from soy in Japan is fermented by Lactobacillus species of boiled soybeans. It has a strong flavor, sticky and slimy texture.

In a study by the American Chemical Society, an enzyme named Nattokinase is present in Natto.

This enzyme has amyloid dissolving capacity and protects against Alzheimer’s disease.

It also protects against stroke due to its ability to prevent clot formation similar to a clot-busting drug.

You can consume Natto to prevent heart disease and amyloid-related disease or can take it in the form of a dietary supplement available in the market.

4. Tungrymbai: A fermented food native to East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya. It is prepared from soybean. Lactic acid fermentation occurs by LAB var. such as L. Plantarum, L. fructivorans, L brevis, L. collinoides, L. pentosus, Leuconostoc mesenteroides.

5: Miso:

Another traditional soy product of Japan and China. Used as a seasoning, salads or soup enriched with protein.

Miso is rich in vitamin B, E, and K, folic acid, isoflavones, and minerals. Studies show heart-protective benefits of isoflavones.

Isoflavones are a micronutrient present in soy that produces a substance known as equol when metabolized by gut bacteria.

Dietary intake of isoflavones through traditional soy products like miso and soymilk is 25-50mg in Asian countries (China and Japan) and equal or less than 2mg in Western countries.

Equol can be availed through supplements but under doctor recommendation. Dietary isoflavones have a beneficial effect on osteoporosis, prostate and breast cancer, dementia along with heart health.

According to a study done by the Society of Endocrinology in Edinburgh, isoflavones, a micro-nutrient in soy mimics the activity of estrogen hormone in women to protect against osteoporosis.

In the study, they proved health benefits of soy protein supplement that had isoflavones (66mg) in it for a period of six months.

Observed Low levels of protein (βCTX and P1NP) in the blood sample of women participants. Resulting in a lower risk of developing osteoporosis and decrease in bone loss.

Research showed 66mg of isoflavone is equivalent to Asian diet rich in suy foods. Whereas, 2 mg of isoflavones are present in Western diets.

  • Fermented Millets

6. Kambukoozh:

 Kambukoozh is a non-alcoholic naturally fermented food prepared from pearl millet porridge. It is a traditional beverage of India that is fermented twice in the process. It prevents constipation.

7. Idli:

Idli is a traditional fermented food of South India. In this, parboiled rice and black gram dal is soaked, grounded and fermented by Leuconostoc mesenteroides, S. faecalis, and Pedococous cerevisiae.

  • Fermented Vegetable

8.  Sauerkraut-

Sauerkraut is a German word originated in China and available across the globe with different names.

Certainly, sauerkraut is a fermented food in which fresh shredded cabbage is subjected to salt brine solution (2-3%w/w) to extract moisture from it and suppress Pseudomonas.

The salt solution also gives flavor and texture to cabbage. It is then subjected to lactic acid fermentation by Leuconostoc and brings down pH to 4.

Leuconostoc is less acidic and tolerant to salt. It is then pasteurized both hetero and homo-fermentation at 2-3% acidity.

9.  Kimchi:

Kimchi is a traditional fermented food of Korea and prepared by the same process as Sauerkraut. In addition to cabbage different vegetables can be used. However, during preparation of Kimchi salt solution is kept <3%w/w and pH at 4.2.

  • Pickling:

An ancient and traditional food preservation technique respective to the countries of origin. Pickled food, a culinary process available worldwide.

From Kimchi in Korea, miso pickles of Japan to sauerkraut of China and chutneys of India is indigenous pickling process.
Pickling involves two processes, firstly, use of vinegar to preserve the ingredients wherein, a few bacteria can survive.

Secondly, salt brine solution to proceed with fermentation that lowers spoilage-causing bacteria with the production of good bacteria.

10. Cucumber Dill Pickles:

For cucumber use of salt, brine is of two types (high salt at 8-9% and low salt at 5% w/w) and then fermented by Leuconostoc for lactic acid fermentation (L. Brevis, L. Plantarum, Leuconostoc and Pedococus pentosans).

Then by starter culture (Leuconostoc mesenteries, Faecalis and Streptococcus) until stabilized by conversion of all fermentable sugar.

Soluble sugar of the cucumber diffuses out after LAB fermentation to produce lactic acid. For few weeks, it is kept in warm temperature and up to 0.7-1.2 acidity.

11. Olives:

It is prepared by Lactic acid fermentation of olives.

Lye solution added to unripe fruit to dissolve sticky oleuropein pigments (gives a bitter flavor).

Then, washed with water and added salt brine solution (5-6%). Lactic acid fermentation starts with Leuconostoc and then by L.brevis at pH 3.6-4.2.

  • Fermented Meat Product:

12. Sausage:

Sausage is a fermented food prepared from Lactic acid fermentation (Pedeococcus acidilactici, L.plantarum) with salting and drying.

Sausage is prepared from pork, beef, and lean meat. The fermentation process promotes coagulation of meat protein, increase water expulsion (decreases moisture content) and the development of flavor and texture.

  •  Fermented Milk Products:

13. Curd: Starter culture- Streptococcus lactis, Leuconostoc, L. lactis.
14. Butter: Starter culture- S. lactis, Leuconostoc, L. lactis
15. Cultured buttermilk: Pasteurized milk and S. lactis, S. cremoris as a starter culture
16. Bulgarian Milk: Skim milk and L. bulgaricus, L.citrivorum (flavor producing)
17. Kefir: From cow’s or goat’s milk and S. lactis, L. bulgaricus, and yeast.
18. Yogurt: S. thermophilus, L. bulgaricus
19. Koumiss: Mare’s milk and S. lactis, L. bulgaricus as a starter culture.
20. Cheese: Involves lactic acid fermentation and available in different forms from hard cheese to soft cheese.

Note: Health benefits of fermented foods are obtained through natural food some people do not like the strange flavor due to lactic acid fermentation. It may also cause bloating, indigestion or food sensitivity in some.

Therefore, select those fermented foods that suit your taste and physiology.

The top 20 fermented foods mentioned in this article are to make you aware of foods that are a part of the traditional diet since back.

You can suggest more examples of the health benefits of fermented foods that you have come across.

Quick Guide to Healthy Fats- In a Nutshell

Guide to Healthy Fats

Highlights:

  •  Dietary Fats: Types, Functions, and Importance in Weight Loss
  • Why Trans Fats are used and its Impact on our Health
  • Smart Substitutions to eat Nuts and Seeds
  • Types of Oil to prefer for Cooking
  • 3 Proven Ways to go Nuts Over Nuts
  • A list of Nuts and Seeds to Swap Processed Foods to Fresh Foods

Guide to Healthy Fats: An Overview

For several years, dietary fat was thought to be the culprit for our deteriorating health. We all shifted to low-fat foods. We minimized healthy fats along with harmful ones.
All fats are not harmful to our body.

Our body requires fat for energy as it is the major source of energy.

Functions of Dietary Fats are:

1. Absorption of some vitamins and minerals
2. Build cell membrane
3. Forms extra-cellular sheath around nerves
4. Blood coagulation and flexible muscles

Color affects human behavior as it affects emotions and attitudes to make a decision. In addition, colors affect the hypothalamus, a region of the brain.

It generates a cascade of the signal to the pituitary gland and endocrine glands. Then thyroid gland releases certain hormones which impact mood, behavior, and decision.

Based on colors of signals, we can categorize fats based on their effects.
Red color denotes the Trans Fats, and you must avoid eating foods that have trans fat in it.

For instance, processed foods such as popcorn and coffee whiteners (mostly contain partially hydrogenated fat).

Tip: Use whole milk or fresh cream

Green color for unsaturated fats like MUFA (Monounsaturated fatty acid) and PUFA (Polyunsaturated fatty acid) to add to your diet.

MUFA are full of nutrients for heart health and maintain a healthy weight. For instance, olive oil, canola oil and some nuts.

They boost metabolism, balances hormones and reduces the risk of cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Yellow color for saturated fats like red meat, cheese fall in between trans fats and unsaturated fats to use in moderation.

How to spot Trans Fats in your Diet:

Trans Fats are artificial fats that are a by-product of a process called hydrogenation. In short, healthy oil is liquid at room temperature is converted to solids during the hydrogenation process.

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                                     Image source

The chemical structure of trans fats has the‘ trans’ configuration in it, that means it has only two hydrogen atom on opposite sides of the double bond in carbon chain responsible for health issues.

Trans Fats found in margarine and vegetable shortening (used in baking and cooking). Now, you can easily spot it in processed foods like fries, cookies, burgers, pizza.

In bakery products and canned frosting, all are in partially hydrogenated oils.

Hydrogenated oil is used to increase the shelf life of food products which is  an unhealthy way.

Few studies suggest that vegetable oils like corn, canola and soya bean oil contain about 0.4- 4.2% of trans fat in it. Therefore, try using extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil for cooking.

Notice the ingredients list for the term partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils.

Reasons why Trans Fat affects your health:

1. Increases bad cholesterol (LDL)
2. Decreases good cholesterol (HDL)
3. Increase inflammation to cause heart disease and stroke
4. Insulin resistance and cause type 2 diabetes
2% of a dietary trans fat increase risk of heart disease by 23%.

Saturated Fatty Acids (SFAs) or Saturated Fats:

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Image source

Saturated Fat has no double bond carbon atom with more hydrogen surrounding carbon atom.

Like cheese, butter, red meat, coconut oil, whole milk, and its products increase cholesterol level.
It is recommended to limit saturated fat to 10% of total calories a day.

Bottom line: It is possible that saturated fats can cause inflammation and elevates level of hsCRP. In some cases, it does not. The results are mixed.

hs-CRP: High Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein is a marker of inflammation such as bacterial infection, trauma or neoplastic activity. A hs-CRP strong indicator of risk of CVD.

Tip: Use of vegetable oil and high-fiber carbohydrates or PUFA may lower inflammation markers levels.

MUFAs and PUFAs – Healthy Fats

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                                            Image source

MUFA and PUFA are an unsaturated fat that has a bend with a double bond in ‘cis’ configuration and less hydrogen in its chemical structure. More is the double bond, higher is the bend, and arachidonic acid has four double bonds making a U shape.

Both food fat and body fat exists in cis configuration and most of the unsaturated fatty acids are cis in nature.

Because of its chemical structure, they are liquid at room temperature.

Naturally occuring unsaturated fatty acids belong to omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 series.

Omega-3 series or Linoleic acid

Omega-6 series or Linolenic acid and Arachidonic acid

Omega-9 series or Oleic acid

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs): not made by the body and needed through the diet hence known as EFAs. Chemically they are PUFA ( that is linoleic acid and Linoleic acid).

Arachidonic acid becomes essential if its precursor linoleic acid is not provided in the diet in required amounts.

Linoleic and Linolenic acids are essential fatty acids as humans are devoid of the enzymes that can add double bonds after carbon 9 and 10.

Sources: vegetables, seeds, fish, and nuts.

MUFA (Monounsaturated Fatty Acids) or Oleic Acid: A good source of vegan healthy fats
Source: Canola oil, olive oil, peanut oils, avocado, nuts, coconut oil, mustard oil, and almond oil.

Health Benefits of MUFAs:

  1. Maintain HDL levels (good cholesterol)
  2. Lowers LDL levels (bad cholesterol)

PUFA (Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids)- An essential fat for the human body and contain more than two carbon double bonds in its chemical structure.
Essential fats are fats to avail from food outside the human’s body because your body cannot make it on its own.

Example: Sesame, corn, flaxseed, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil.

Sesame oil contains 41% omega 6 F.A and has a  high smoke point. It is least prone to rancidity when kept in open or during cooking.

Recommended ratio for: SFA:MUFA:PUFA is 1:1:1

PUFA are of two types: 

  1. Omega-3 Fatty Acid: known as alpha-linolenic acid (Example: EPA, DHA). Sources: Vegetable oil like groundnut oil, rice bran oil, 100-200g fish (2-3 times a week) and a combination of mustard oil and soybean oil. Good Sources of EPA (Ecosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) – Human milk (for infants), tuna, sardines, fish or cod liver oil, salmon, shellfish, anchory fish, herring, mullet fish, trout and blue fish.
  2. Omega-6 Fatty Acid: known as linoleic acid (Example: Arachidonic acid). Sources: Safflower oil, corn oil.

Both are beneficial for health but differs in distance of first carbon double bond to the first carbon atom. Recommended ratio of omega 6/omega 3 is 4:1.

Arachidonic Acid: It is a precursor of thromboxane (vasoconstrictor) and prostacyclin (vasodilators) that prevents accumulation of cholesterol in blood vessels. Thus, prevents thrombus formation.

Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

  1. Decreases LDL (bad cholesterol)
  2.  No effect on HDL (good cholesterol)
  3.  Decrease triglycerides (TG)
  4.  Lowers intake of corticosteroids medications in rheumatoid patients

Benefits of Omega-6 Fatty Acids:

  1. Decreases total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels
  2. Its large quantity decreases HDL cholesterol levels
  3. Decreases thrombosis formation
  4. Less production of triglycerides (TGs) and LDL

Source: Canola oil, fatty fish like salmon and sardine, flaxseed, walnut, canola oil and soyabean oil ( un-hydrogenated).

Flaxseeds contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) an omega-3 fatty acid (more than 50% in its oil).

Bottom line: A prudent diet (low in calorie, cholesterol, and SFAs) with high fiber and high in PUFA is a principle diet to maintain good nutrition for heart patients.

Eat healthy fats (Nuts) your way:

A study done at Harvard University suggested benefits of a handful of nuts for weight loss.

Switch to nuts from other snacks like processed foods, red meat, a bag of chips, french fries, dessert.

According to the American Heart Association study, a handful of nuts or one serving of nuts (28-30g) in daily diet maintains a healthy weight.

Bottom line: A one-ounce serving of nuts is about 160 Kcal. Replace your candy or bag of chips with a handful of healthy nuts.  Either add in your salad or baked foods or as roasted snacks.

Remember: Moderation is the key.

Preferred Oil for Cooking:

Note: PUFA is a long chain fatty acid and is liable to per-oxidation. The uncontrolled peroxidation of PUFA in the cell membrane leading to cell damage.

A balance of PUFA with MUFA maintains normal cell function.

The more is the polyunsaturated fat, the faster it will go rancid (rancidity is incomplete oxidation of fats and oils that arises in the presence of air, light, and heat).

You can notice rancidity in the oil when you use it. If there is stale taste, off-odor or strange color (darker than original) discard you cooking oil.

For Deep-Frying prefer: Safflower or Sunflower Oil (High smoking point)

Sauteing and Stir-frying: Canola Oil, Olive and Groundnut Oil

Sprinkle and Salad dressing: Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Flaxseed Oil

The Takeaway:

The Three Reasons to Go Nuts over Nuts:

1. Nuts and Seeds are a Good Source of Fiber: A spike in blood sugar makes insulin store more fat in different organs of the body. But fiber blocks this pathway. Then you don’t need insulin.

A recommended amount of dietary fiber is 25-30g per day.

Dietary Fibers:

Fiber or roughage is a kind of carbohydrate that cannot be easily broken or digested by digestive enzymes in humans. It is a plant-derived food.

On the basis of its physical properties it is grouped into the following:

Soluble Fiber:

As the name suggests it gets dissolved in water. It forms a gel with water that slows digestion, expands and provide a bulk to the food in the gastrointestinal tract (GI).

Therefore, aids in weight loss and stabilizes blood sugar. It is also a natural scrub to clear off waste particles in GI tract.

Soluble fiber absorbs toxins in the blood and has no deleterious effect on the body.

In addition, alleviates the condition of diarrhea and constipation.

Good sources are: Oats, legumes, nuts, seeds, cereals, fruits and vegetables.

Insoluble Fiber:

It does not dissolve in water. So, it remains intact and passes through the digestive system along with waste particles and increases bulk.

Thereby, alleviates the condition of constipation as it increases intestinal peristaltic movement.

Sources: wheat bran, whole grains, avocado, psyllium husk.

FDA defines Dietary Fibers to have physiological effects that improve human health.

For instance, lower cholesterol, postprandial glucose levels, lower blood pressure, balance appetite, and satiety, decreases gut transit time.

FDA approved Fiber status in 2016:

Beta-glucan, psyllium husk, cellulose, pectin, locust bean gum, and guar gum.

2. Nuts are Anti-inflammatory: Inflammation is the cause of many chronic diseases. Nuts helps to reduce plaque formation and decrease the risk factor for heart disease.

3. Calorie Dense but full of Macro-nutrients and Micro-nutrients: Such as carbohydrate, protein, fat, calcium, phytonutrients and minerals respectively.

A Quick Guide to Healthy Fats:

1. Almond- 3 ounce a day to lose weight and reduce waistline. One ounce (28g) or 23 whole kernels to prevent heart disease. A good source of vegan healthy fats.

Almonds, when consumed as snacks, keep off hunger pangs 
2. Walnut- One ounce or 28g a day (14 halves in no.) contains 47% of PUFA with alpha-linolenic acid.

It lowers levels of apolipoprotein-B a strong genetic risk factor for heart disease.

3. Brazil Nuts- A ounce (30g) or 6 kernels a day is a good source of healthy fat to cut back extra fat and maintain weight.

It contains 100% RDA of selenium that helps to metabolize thyroid hormone.

4. Pistachio Nuts- 6-10g a day lowers stress-induced blood pressure. Rich in vitamin K and good for bone health.

5. Olive oil (Extra Virgin)- Rich in anti-oxidants. Contain healthy fats for weight loss.

6. Avocados- contain potassium more than banana and good for heart health.

7. Macadamia Nuts- A ounce (10-12 kernels) a good source of MUFA that helps to lower cholesterol.
8. Cashews- One ounce (18g) or 18 kernels is a good source of zinc and magnesium that boosts memory.

9. Flaxseed- An anti-oxidant, rich in omega-3 fatty acid, contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.

10. Chia seed– 60% linolenic acid, omega 3, polyphenols, anti-oxidant, high dietary fiber content (insoluble fiber). Good source of protein about (19-27g/100g). Low in calorie content.

Remember:

Even if you go for foods with zero added trans fat in the packaged food. Always look if partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oil or fats is mentioned.

Top 5 Proven Health Benefits of Probiotics

Health Benefits of Probiotics

The Probiotic Foods are prepared by live Bacteria and Yeasts good for our digestion.

The term Probiotics conceived from both Latin and Greek word.

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food- Hippocrates.

This quote is not a cliché anymore, despite advances in food and pharma technology for better health prospects. According to experts eating food close to nature is beneficial for optimal health.

New studies in nutrition for healthy eating have turned the table towards natural foods. The popularization of traditional foods is gaining momentum these days.

Among these, fermentation is an ancient, traditional and well-established process of food preparation.

Fermentation or Lacto-fermentation is a chemical reaction of food. It is a technique of food preservation. The process involves a breakdown of sugar and starch in food by natural bacteria that produce lactic acid. Thereby promotes a healthy gut.

Since ancient times, domestic as well as industries employ the practice of fermentation extensively. Due to its ability to transform one ingredient in too many forms.

For instance, milk into cheese, yogurt, buttermilk and soybean into miso, soy sauce, akhuni, and fermented soy beverage. Fermented food promotes good bacteria inside our gut which are now termed as probiotics.

Production and consumption of probiotics have seen unprecedented growth around the globe. It is also on the verge of innovative dynamics to not fall for any dietary rut.

History of Probiotics you should Know:

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Probiotics are often termed as functional foods, and the best way to avail this is through beneficial fermentation by good bacteria.

There are two ways to provide your gut with healthy probiotics.

  1. Through fermented foods and
  2. Through dietary supplements.

But here fermented foods have a little edge over supplements because fermented foods are easy to prepare and home-made.

Probiotic supplements are readily available in the market but, there are no guidelines set by FDA as it does for medicines.

All about Fermentation:

The oldest method of fermentation contains strains of good bacteria mainly Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species proven for its therapeutic potential.

As functional foods probiotics are live microbial food supplement that improves intestinal gut microbiome hence improve digestion.

Understanding Microbiome:

A microbiota is a genetic material of the microbes. There are around trillions of microbes that inhabit on and inside a human body.

A microbiota comprises thousand of different types of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi. Research shows that microbiome boosts metabolism, enhances immunity, improves digestion and balances hormones.

The Microbiome and its presence:

A large portion of microbes resides in the gut or the gastrointestinal tract that balances microbial communities.

You get first exposed to the microbiome before birth in the birth canal that influences their gut microbiome on birth.

The microbiota community is responsible for gut health, immunity, heart health, good digestion and production of key metabolites that regulates human metabolism.

They form the most common genera in human colon and are considered key commensals in promoting host health by providing wide range of probiotic attributes and a host of other functional attributes.

Microbiome and its Functions:

The gut microbes or microbiota is involved in the production of enzymes that cannot be encoded by the human genome. Such as breakdown of polyphenols, cleavage of polysaccharides and synthesis of vitamins.

The Microbiota alters Metabolic Pathways of Dietary Intake as follows:

For Carbohydrates:

1. Short chain fatty acid (SCFA) is a metabolite formed during carbohydrate metabolism. It includes acetic, butyric and propionic acids obtained via fecal specimens. These metabolites are responsible for regulating metabolism.

For Protein:

Gut flora breaks down ingested dietary protein into short peptides, amino acids, short chain fatty acid. Also, gases like ammonia, hydrogen, carbon dioxide. Effective in the metabolism of essential and non-essential amino acids in humans.

For Vitamin Synthesis:

Gut microbes synthesize vitamin B, vitamin K, pantothenic acid, folate, thiamine, nicotinic acid, riboflavin and cyanocobalamine (vitamin B12).

  • 5 Health Benefits of Probiotics: Based on Research Studies

  1. Probiotics and Weight Loss:

    Probiotics aid in weight loss as they improve the barrier function of the gut mucosa. Studies show LAB (Lactic Acid Bacteria) and bifidobacteria with structural components and metabolites produced by microbial activity stimulate epithelial cells signaling pathways.
    Good bacteria strains in probiotics interact with bacteria that reside inside the gut. They alter their properties to affect the metabolic pathway involved in the regulation of fat metabolism.

  2. Probiotics and Digestion: 

    Lactobacillus acidophilus in yogurt improves digestion and immune function.
    Bifidobacterium longum blocks bad bacteria and yeast in the gut. Improves diarrhea caused due to infections and antibiotics.
    If you don’t like fermented foods you still can reap the health benefits of probiotics in supplements with doctor consultation. Look for live and active cultures with a range of 90 billion to 500 billion CFU (colony forming units) per serving.

  3. Probiotics and Cardiovascular Health: 

    L.acidophilus in yogurt increase HDL levels (good cholesterol) and decrease HDL to LDL cholesterol ratio. L. plantarum in supplements decreases serum LDL cholesterol levels. Trimethylamine (TMA) a gut metabolite is formed inside the gut when microbes feed on a chemical known as choline. Choline is a chemical nutrient found in foods of animal origin such as meat, poultry, eggs. Also present in small amount in the food of plant origin like chickpeas, split peas, cruciferous vegetables including spinach and asparagus). A study conducted by the American Heart Association proved that TMA gets converted to trimethylamine -N-oxide in the liver responsible for plaque formation in arteries. In the findings, high TMAO levels linked to about 60 % risk of cardiac disease.

  4. Probiotics and Blood Pressure: 

    Formation of short-chain fatty acids in the gut play a crucial role in lowering blood pressure numbers. By dilation and constriction of blood vessels, in a study conducted in mice.

  5. Probiotics and Cognitive Function:

    Studies show that probiotics improve mood and thus boost cognitive function. A recent focus on the gut-brain axis shows brain and gut are connected. The gut is now termed ‘second brain’ as it generates neurotransmitters like the brain does, for instance, dopamine and serotonin.

During situations of fear and flight, the brain sends a signal to the gut. That is why during the condition of fear and stress you feel a nervous stomach.